A Guy Thing

Movie Information

Genre: Romance Comedy
Director: Chris Koch
Starring: Jason Lee, Julia Stiles, Selma Blair, James Brolin, Julie Hagerty
Rated: PG-13

There are laws in this country about dumping toxic waste. Unfortunately, they do not extend to theaters, which is where most such lethal bilge ends up at this time of year. (The good movies out there right now are all holdovers from 2002.)

On the lame-o-meter, A Guy Thing is marginally better than Just Married, but only marginally. The film is, however, instructive: It finally proves for good and all that Jason Lee is a supporting actor; he’s not a star, and he never will be. Lee is an agreeable supporting player, as he’s proved over and over in Kevin Smith movies. He’s also at his best when he’s at his most sarcastic. So naturally, when the movies try to make him the leading man, they turn him into a grade-C nebbish and lose everything that makes him appealing as the wise guy he’s often played for Smith. That was the case with the dismal Stealing Harvard, and it’s the case with this bone-headed rehash of the Bringing Up Baby formula.

A Guy Thing is your standard-issue rubbish about a likable nerd engaged to the Wrong Person (Selma Blair), but who finds both True Love and How to Really Live when he comes face to face with the Lovably Kooky Right Girl (Julia Stiles). OK, it’s not a bad formula. It worked for Bringing Up Baby in 1938. And it worked even better in that film’s unofficial remake, What’s Up, Doc?, in 1972. It’s even worked in various forms in a raft of other, lesser movies. The difference is that those movies didn’t have Greg Glienna’s (Meet the Parents) abominable script, or Chris Koch’s perpetually misfiring direction.

When the best a movie can come up with by way of “learning how to really live” is taking a hill at high speed so that your car jumps off the road, there’s a problem. And it’s pretty obvious that the responsible parties knew it all along, which is probably why the entire movie smacks of sheer desperation. How many times can a story hinge on the lead character being late for some wedding preparation? I’d say that twice is pushing it. I lost count of the number of times this “gag” was trotted out in A Guy Thing. It’s the sort of thing that actually makes you glad when the movie resorts to stealing gags from other films.

A sequence involving Lee attempting to quietly buy medicine to rid himself of a case of crabs (contracted innocently at his bachelor party) is nothing more than a copy of Woody Allen buying porno magazines in Bananas. Lee accidentally spilling the beans about his innocent “indiscretion” with his fiancee’s cousin while, unbeknownst to him, his future father-in-law (James Brolin) is getting an earful in a nearby toilet stall is a predictable “comedic” version of the denouement from The Emperor’s Club. Worse yet, the whole relationship between Lee and his prospective father-in-law is straight out of Stealing Harvard!

Seemingly, Messrs. Glienna and Koch were aware they were coming up short, so they fleshed things out by affording Lee numerous fantasy sequences over what would happen if he told the truth regarding what did and didn’t happen between himself and Stiles in the aftermath of his bachelor party. Not a single one of these intrusions work. Then Glienna and Koch injected an interminable sequence involving Lee feigning gastric distress so he can remain hidden in a bathroom — complete with a laff-riot of a gag involving Lee squirting a bottle of hair conditioner into the toilet for the appropriate sound effects. I guess the film’s writer and director are of the mind that bathroom humor guarantees boffo box office.

I could be wrong about the ratio, but my guess is that about a quarter of the film is spent in bathrooms. There’s the scene where Lee’s character gets crabs, and he hides the incriminating underwear in a toilet tank (does the man not have a trashcan?). There’s a scene where Lee and Stiles’ characters take refuge from a vicious dog by closing themselves behind the shower doors on a bathtub, and the aforementioned bean-spilling business, and the diarrhea sequence. Who funded this movie? American Standard?

As if all this weren’t bad enough, the film operates on the premise that everyone in the proceedings is a complete nitwit. As a result, no one wonders why Lee’s bathroom antics contain a lot of crashing and breakage when he climbs back in a window after an abortive escape attempt. Similarly, no one wonders why the back of his sweater is covered in bits of firtree. No one makes much of the fact that he’s scratching in a most indelicate manner while giving a business presentation during his bout of crabs. His fiancee discovers the underwear in his toilet and seems to blandly accept the excuse that these belong to her … and on and on.

Then again, maybe everyone in the proceedings is a nitwit. That’s certainly the easiest explanation for how they were talked into making this movie!

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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